Obituary: Phil Smith

January 25, 1943 – March 30, 2021

Former Cordova resident Phil Smith, who held prominent federal and state roles in commercial fisheries issues, passed away peacefully at home in Juneau on March 30. He was 78.

Born in Missoula, Montana, on Jan. 25, 1943, Smith arrived in Alaska in October of 1943 with his parents aboard the steamship SS Aleutian on Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage. He grew up playing on the beaches, tundra and forests bordering various Civil Aeronautics Administration stations across rural Alaska. In 1953, the family settled in Cordova. At Cordova High School, he

Played in the band and was starting center on the basketball team. He spent summers commercial fishing in Prince William Sound.

His son Crispian said his dad always thought of Cordova as his hometown.

He studied at the University of Notre Dame from 1960-1962, where he developed a lifelong love of radio and theater and then briefly attended Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon.

In 1964 he volunteered in the U.S. Army, served as a medic at an Army hospital in France, and was honorably discharged in April 1967. His time in the service and the loss of so many fellow service members Vietnam War jarred his conscience, giving him a lifelong desire for peace, his family said.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science, Smith returned home to Alaska, worked in instructional television for the Anchorage School District and also played Big Bird for kids in a call-in program. Smith and the love of his life, Deborah Bishop, were married on June 25, 1971.

Smith then took a job with the Rural Alaska Community Action Program Inc., eventually becoming its executive director.

Smith’s service on the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission began with his appointment by Gov. Bill Sheffield in 1983 and ran through 1991. He also served from 1995 until his retirement as the lead for the National Marine Fisheries Service’s implementation of the individual fishing quota program, one of the first of its kind in the nation. He was especially proud of the development under his direction of subsistence rules for halibut. The regulations were promulgated through the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and resulted in the Subsistence Halibut Registration Certificate permit which enabled subsistence fishing for rural residents and Alaska Native tribes.

In retirement Smith devoted many volunteer hours to the Juneau chapter of Veterans for Peace, including service as its president. He led the organization’s opposition to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and worked to create the Bishop Kenny Memorial Peace Park and a scholarship fund.

Smith was preceded in death by his baby sister Kristin, his brother Frank Jr. and is parents, Frank Sr. and Hazel. He is survived by his wife, Deborah, his son Crispian (Jeroen van Dalen) and daughter Moira (Jake Metcalfe), grandchildren Maggie, Owen, Bien and Peter, and his sister Aleen, as well as nieces and nephews.

Donations in his memory by be made to Sitka Summer Music Festival, P.O. Box 3333, Sitka, AK 99835 or Veterans for Peace Chapter 100 scholarship fund at P.O. Box 2991, Juneau, AK 99802.